Our education system needs a major overhaul

| Update:
October 28, 2021 10:08:21 p.m.

To the delight of our children, almost all educational institutions in the country, except private universities, have finally opened after 18 months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. We hope that private universities will also open soon. The closure of educational institutions, probably one of the most prolonged school closures in the world, has not only caused the loss of two academic years of students’ lives, but has also seriously affected their mental health. They suffered from depression, anxiety and stress due to confinement in homes for a long time. How to repair the loss is a matter of grave concern.

It is not the responsibility of educational institutions or for that matter of the government alone, it is also the responsibility of guardians to do everything possible to ensure that their children resume a normal life both physically and mentally and pursue their studies with confidence.

This is only one aspect of the situation. The other aspect, which is more relevant to the overall grooming of our future generation, is to provide them with adequate education befitting today’s national and international demands. Sorry to say, there have been several experiments with the country’s education system since the country gained independence in 1971, but without tangible results.

It is probably high time to put an end to all fanciful experiments and to reform the whole educational system of the country in its true perspective so that the future generation can benefit from it.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has always been sincere in improving the level of education in the country. The 2010 national education policy is the result of a personal initiative by the Prime Minister. She had, with all good intentions, formed a committee to formulate the much needed national education policy with renowned educators, scholars and intellectuals. The committee worked hard and in the shortest time came up with a policy recommendation based on which the National Education Policy 2010 was enacted.

The main objectives of the National Education Policy 2010, among many others, were: (a) to ensure quality education at every level, (b) to make the country literate by 2014, and (c) to more importantly, education policy must be responsive to the needs of modern times with a view to making the future generation a valuable human resource. The extent to which we have made progress in this regard is the subject of constructive debate.

The country’s literacy rate, which was 49% in 2010, is now estimated at over 70%. The dropout rate was 50% in 2010 and is now below 20%. There are certainly some remarkable achievements to be reckoned with.

Another amazing performance of this government is the increase in the enrollment rate of our children in primary school. The statistics are fascinating to say the least. He crossed 90 percent. But if we look at the progress of the implementation of the other provisions of the education policy, it is a lamentable picture.

The policy incorporated the provision of 8-year primary education by 2018 in phases. There has been little real progress in this regard. There has been no sincere attempt, let alone progress, on developing infrastructure or recruiting enough qualified teachers to extend primary education to grade V11.

Another provision provided that the teacher-student ratio would be 1:30 at the primary level and 1:40 at the secondary level. It has not yet come true. Students were subjected to public examinations, one after another. There was no provision for public review after Class V. How it was introduced is still a mystery.

The main objective of the National Education Policy 2010 was to ensure that it was in tune with the needs of modern times with a view to making the future generation a valuable human resource. He hasn’t seen the light of day yet.

If we are talking about the quality education that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has repeatedly insisted on, it is still a long way off. The general level of our education is still well below the international standard. No wonder the University of Dhaka, once known as Oxford of the East, does not find its name on the list of top 1000 universities in the world.

Minister of Education Dipu Moni, in a recent virtual meeting, said that she had taken the initiative to reform the National Education Policy 2010. She said that many changes had taken place since then and that it was time to revise, refine and reform it. We welcome this decision.

But at the same time, we would like to say that there was nothing wrong with the National Education Policy 2010. It is the failure on the part of our government to implement it in its true spirit.

We need to remember the basic goals of the policy and start implementing them as a priority. To begin with, the government should do everything possible to raise the primary level to the V11 class, discarding any excuse for funding.

As part of the reform, we have to start developing the infrastructure, modifying the curricula, preparing new curricula and giving our children standard textbooks. We need to find qualified and well-trained teachers early in our children’s student lives. In the meantime, let’s remove the public exam after class V and relieve the children of an unwanted burden.

Private coaching is another threat from which our education system must be freed. These coaching centers are by no means standard houses of learning. They are simply trading houses. They use our children as tools of their business. It is time for our Minister of Education to look into the matter and do something positive to put an end to this threat once and for all.

The government has been quite generous in providing free books to students up to class X spending, say, 2000 crore taka per year (assumed) regardless of their parents’ financial status. In all honesty, no more than 30% of students are really poor enough and need financial help to buy books. Why doesn’t the government give a stipend worth 600,000,000 TK per year to these poor students to enable them to buy books?

What is the rationale for providing books worth Tk. 700-800 per year free to each of the remaining 70% of students whose parents can easily afford to spend 2500 Tk per month on private coaching alone? It will be better to allocate the remaining Tk.1200 crore to meet expenses such as construction of infrastructure, provision of educational equipment, recruitment of qualified teachers with a handsome salary, hiring of foreign experts, if necessary, etc. The budget allocation for the education sector in terms of GDP ratio is only 2.09% while UNESCO prescribes 4-6%.

Despite a relatively weak post-pandemic economy, we will urge the government to pay particular attention to the education sector and, among other measures, to significantly increase its budgetary allocation to this sector, at least to 3% of GDP, if necessary. by reducing expenses. other less important sectors.

Captain Hussain Imam, Master Mariner (UK), is a retired merchant navy officer.

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